The Story of Abraham Lincoln/The Boatman

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One of Thomas Lincoln's friends owned a ferry-boat on the Ohio River. It was nothing but a small rowboat, and would carry only three or four people at a time. This man wanted to employ some one to take care of his boat and to ferry people across the river.

Thomas Lincoln was in need of money; and so he arranged with his friend for Abraham to do this work. The wages of the young man were to be $2.50 a week. But all the money was to be his father's.

One day two strangers came to the landing. They wanted to take passage on a steamboat that was coming down the river. The ferry-boy signalled to the steamboat and it stopped in midstream. Then the boy rowed out with the two passengers, and they were taken on board.

Just as he was turning towards the shore again, each of the strangers tossed a half-dollar into his boat. He picked the silver up and looked at it. Ah, how rich he felt! He had never had so much money at one time. And he had gotten all for a few minutes' labor!

When winter came on, there were fewer people who wanted to cross the river. So, at last, the ferry-boat was tied up, and Abraham Lincoln went back to his father's home.

He was now nineteen years old. He was very tall—nearly six feet four inches in height. He was as strong as a young giant. He could jump higher and farther, and he could run faster, than any of his fellows; and there was no one, far or near, who could lay him on his back.

Although he had always lived in a community of rude, rough people, he had no bad habits. He used no tobacco; he did not drink strong liquor; no profane word ever passed his lips.

He was good-natured at all times, and kind to every one.

During that winter, Mr. Gentry, the storekeeper in the village, had bought a good deal of corn and pork. He intended, in the spring, to load this on a flatboat and send it down the river to New Orleans.

In looking about for a captain to take charge of the boat, he happened to think of Abraham Lincoln. He knew that he could trust the young man. And so a bargain was soon made. Abraham agreed to pilot the boat to New Orleans and to market the produce there; and Mr. Gentry was to pay his father eight dollars and a half a month for his services.

As soon as the ice had well melted from the river, the voyage was begun. Besides Captain Lincoln there was only one man in the crew, and that was a son of Mr. Gentry's.

The voyage was a long and weary one, but at last the two boatmen reached the great southern city. Here they saw many strange things of which they had never heard before. But they soon sold their cargo and boat, and then returned home on a steamboat.

To Abraham Lincoln the world was now very different from what it had seemed before. He longed to be away from the narrow life in the woods of Spencer county. He longed to be doing something for himself—to be making for himself a fortune and a name.

But then he remembered his mother's teachings when he sat on her knee in the old Kentucky home, "Always do right." He remembered her last words, "I know you will be kind to your father."

And so he resolved to stay with his father, to work for him, and to give him all his earnings until he was twenty-one years old.